X/ Rollins Band
Orlando, FL August 26, 2006
by Jen Cray
There's a war with no end in sight, a president who has us all under a magnifying glass at high noon, and gas is $3 a gallon, but good music can still elevate the human spirit. As the World Burns, legendary L.A. punk bands tour the country, with their original lineups, and give the fans something to get excited about! X and Rollins Band have hit the tour circuit bringing Texas' Riverboat Gamblers along for the ride. Their Orlando date brought them to the exquisitely designed, though somewhat authoratative Hard Rock Live (upon entering the venue I'm greeted with the instruction- "no moshing." I then count several posted notices that actually read "crowd surfers and moshers will be ejected. No exceptions!").
To the majority of the audience who showed up after Riverboat Gamblers played, I say this: in 1979 the Dead Kennedys opened for The Clash. Imagine the idiots who didn't get there early enough to see Jello and company in their prime. That was you.
Riverboat Gamblers are perhaps the most exciting punk band on the scene right now. They've been a band for just under a decade and yet have already received the honor of being name one of SPIN magazine's "Top 25 Live Bands" (coming in at #15). So why are they so good? Aside from their infectious melodies fraught with fast guitars and Trever Keith-style (Face to Face vocalist) vocals, they've also got a wild frontman (Mike Wiebe) who spends more time in the air or in the audience then on the stage floor. The band's set is interrupted midway through by X who make their way out to say "Happy Birthday" to Wiebe, who seems astonished at his good fortune in being able to call bands like X and Rollins Band "friends." Riverboat Gamblers are the future of punk rock.
Henry Rollins is an institution. He's one of the most recognizable faces of punk rock- even to those who have never heard a Rollins Band or Black Flag song. Juggling acting, writing, spoken word tours, a cable talk show, and a radio program alongside his music- it's always a big deal when the man makes time for a music tour. Taking the original lineup of Rollins Band on the road along with the original lineup of old buddies X was truly an event.
Wearing the same black shorts he's worn since the early days and having maintained the same bodybuilder physique, it's surreal to see the imposing figure of Henry, in his trademark edge-of-stage squat, just inches from my camera lens. He delivers the usual powerhouse set of heavy, blues-tinged, slightly funky (thanks to bassist Melvin Gibbs) hardcore for an audience that includes a large portion of 40-somethings who reminisce about seeing Black Flag in the early 80's. The hourlong set is a best of that includes "Low Self Opinion" and "Liar."
Los Angeles legends X became a band the year I was born- 1977. Today Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Billy Zoom and D.J. Bonebrake are all a bit older, but their attitudes toward rock 'n' roll have not changed one bit. Looking like a group of old friends who are not just reuniting for the cash (although I'm sure that was probably a factor) but are genuinely having a good time, X follows up Rollins' energy with their rockabilly punk anthems like "Los Angeles" and the fantastically catchy "Desperate."
For an evening, we can all pretend the world is not in a state of instability, and wallow in the intentional chaos of pure punk rock.